Monday 18 November 2019

Schmidt demands Leinster players keep eye on ball

David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has warned his side not to be distracted by their double title tilt after firing a broadside at some of the players who misfired against Glasgow Warriors in the final league game of the season.

The Blues' seemingly relentless march to an unprecedented Magners League and Heineken Cup double -- a feat never before achieved by an Irish province -- continues apace in the first of this weekend's Magners League semi-finals against Ulster at the RDS on Friday.

With the Heineken Cup final against Northampton Saints only 12 days away, the Kiwi has admitted that he doesn't completely know his strongest side after several under-studies failed to grab the chance to impress last Friday.

"The consciousness of it not being done before I'm not sure about," says Schmidt of his side's ambitious double quest. "But there is a risk of taking an eye off the ball.

"Some of the guys who played against Glasgow on Friday night probably weren't as good as they needed to be and they weren't as good as they will need to be this Friday.

"Maybe they were looking a little bit further ahead than we were entitled to. I think we ironed that out in most places in the second half, but I don't think we can be waiting until half-time to be ironing ourselves out against a quality side like Ulster.

"I'm not sure what our strongest team is, and looking at guys with some niggles, maybe they won't play Friday. Against this opposition, there are some tough, tough decisions to make and it's a great position to be in.

"Sometimes it's difficult to manage, but one of the things that has impressed me this year is how unified the guys have been in preparing players who have been selected and making sure that the 15 and the 23 are in the best prepared state."

Captain Leo Cullen echoed the coach's concerns about allowing their concentration to waver as they look to book a potential Grand Final date a week after their Heineken Cup bid.

"At this stage, compared to last year, it's a pretty similar situation," says Cullen. "It's important not to focus on the end product, just focus on the processes. It's easy to picture yourself at the next stage but you have to remember the steps to get you there. That's what we concentrate on, those steps and what gets us to that next stage.


"Okay, bodies are a little beaten up compared to earlier on in the year. That's why it's important to freshen things up, like against Glasgow. I don't know what the hell Joe is going to do this week in terms of a team.

"Everyone is mad keen to play and be involved. And that's an advantage we have over last year, when we wouldn't have had that same level of competitions.

"So we need to focus on our process, doing the hard work, not get carried away by the occasion. It's very easy to get distracted by the hype from the supporters or family."

Elsewhere, Ulster's Dan Tuohy hopes to find out the extent of his hamstring injury later today, while Willie Faloon has been ruled out of the rest of the campaign.

Faloon, who injured his shoulder in training two weeks ago, will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair a torn rotator cuff, ending the faint hopes he had of making Declan Kidney's extended World Cup squad.

Irish Independent

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